Painting of self-taught artist part of exhibit in Japan

A watercolor painting by a self-taught artist and mother of five boys from Bacolod City was part of an exhibit in Japan, recently.

The painting of a Philippine Eagle called “King of the Skies” by Suklin Chang Peña was featured in the Japan International Watercolor Institute for the Internet Exhibition of Excellent Paintings.

It was also featured in a Philippine Fauna Art Society exhibit called “Sandaan para sa Kalikasan.”

Peña, who is into sugar trading and farming, began watercolor painting in 2016.

She was inspired by four female watercolor painters who visited Bacolod.

“I was intrigued by their watercolor kits, water brushes, the beautiful pigments, and the quality of the watercolors. I’d watched them do plein air painting of the places they went to, the beach, the mountains, the old houses, the ruins, and the sugarcane plantations. They also sketched and painted the food they ate,” she said in a post on

She told herself, “I can do this! This is fun,” and asked the visiting artists where they got their watercolor paints.

When she got her supplies to start painting, Peña said she froze and realized she did not know where to start.

Eventually, she started to sketch their staircase, telling herself it would be easy since it would be painted only in brown.

She then watched YouTube videos on how to paint in watercolor and read some books, Peña said.

Peña also joined the “World Watercolor Group” on Facebook, which opened a new world for her, she said.

“I learned a lot by looking at the posts of the other excellent and other aspiring artists. All the works were joyful, quirky, and colorful, inspiring me to excel in my work. I’d moved past the insecurity of making mistakes in my works, being in the mindset that no one will see them anyway and these paintings were just personal,” she said.

“As I painted and sketched, I realized that I am recording life with so much of God’s daily blessings, journalizing life through my sketches and paintings. Painting makes us notice details we usually take for granted. I want to record memories by painting and remembering them for later as I am starting to be forgetful and my eyesight is not as clear,” said Peña, who is 58 years old.

She was forgetful when she was 54 but when she started drawing and noticing things she did not usually pay attention to it helped her memory, Peña said.

Peña keeps a record of her work under @helenagoya on Instagram, “to celebrate life an artwork a day.”

“I started it as my memoir because I am not good at words. Sketching was better to record moments. It became my journey in my art,” she said.

She has also started a public group by Chang Suk Ling called “AnArtaDay” on Facebook to encourage everyone to develop the habit of daily practice in sketching, painting, and sharing in the creation of art, Peña said.

Peña said she created the Facebook page so when people ask for her help, they can visit the page.

Her art a day rules are: paint like a child, be fearless don’t be shy, leave whites, make darks, put values, and be happy.*

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